I used to live in Alaska.
Located just south of the Arctic Circle, I was in Nome - a very small city,
but the largest settlement in the region.
Yes, I know, you're reading this and saying
"where the heck are you going with this one, Greg?"
It was a long time ago, back at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union were
deep in the throes of a cold war. And while the cold war was hot in Europe,
things were different in our area.
It wasn't unusual to see a ship in our harbor with the hammer and sickle on the smokestack, and when that happened there might be a social exchange taking place in the community center or a place like that.
A funny thing would happen next:
The Americans would end up on one side of the room,
and the Russians on the other side.
After all, they spoke two different languages, so conversations weren't easy.
But what surprised everybody was what was happening in the middle of the room.
Natives of the region (known by outsiders as "Eskimo", but more correctly identified as Yupik and Inuit people), were in the middle.
Natives of both American and Russian origin were in the middle,
speaking the same language.
They had common ancestry, similar customs,
and in some cases they actually shared cousins and other relatives.
They were separated by water, politics, and even war (albeit a cold one),
and yet they knew a brother when they saw one.
Now, my point:
I always found that scenario amazing, and wondered what it must have been like to be in the middle of that room.
Rowing under the big bridge on the night of Friday, October 25th,
I got a little taste of it, as the guys from Providence took their turn
singing a song for the group.
A song we all knew, had all sung, and could have easily joined in on.
But all of us West Coasters were fascinated to hear how those guys from the East Coast might sing it.
The guys from Providence ("PVD" as I'd heard one of them say) filled the air with a beautiful and haunting version of Vieni Sul Mar - one which reminded me at times of monks in a monastery, but singing something in "our language".
I'd come to the event expecting some great exchanges, but nothing like the "middle of the room" experiences I was fortunate enough to have.
I raise my glass (filled with red wine or vodka) to my brothers from PVD.